What numbers do you spell out when you write?

Source:  Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

We English majors and grammarians like to think we remember all the rules about writing, but there’s nothing wrong with a refresher to help us get it right.

I recently finished a project which contained narrative with a lot of dates and numbers, large and small.  I wasn’t sure which numbers should be spelled out and which should be in numeric form.  This handy article from Writer’s Digest explains it all.

While the article states that there are different opinions on the subject, here’s the general rule:

  • Spell out all numbers 0-9.
  • Use numeric symbol for 10 and above.

BUT

  • Spell out all numbers that begin with a sentence.
  • Never spell out calendar years, even if they begin a sentence.
  • Always use figures for ages of people, dates, monetary amounts, percentages and ratios.

Now that’s a rule I can follow!

What’s your policy on spelling out numbers?  What grammar and writing rules are you sometimes unsure about?

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21 thoughts on “What numbers do you spell out when you write?

  1. I always spell out the numbers if they start out a sentence. I didn’t know there was a rule for it. I just thought starting a sentence with numbers looks weird lol!

  2. A great reminder of these rules – I follow most of them but do come across many magazines /books where the persons age will be spelt out. Sometimes it seems to work, other times it jars terribly. Whilst doing a proof-reading course I had books on style, grammar and copy-editing – before then I never realised how complicated getting it right actually is! (And never finish on a verb!!)

  3. This is one of those rules that messes me up. 🙂 I always spelled out only one through ten because that’s the rule for newspaper articles, but then I thought I heard for a book, the numbers one through 100 should be spelled out. Oh well – like you said, it’s good to be a rebel!

  4. Those are rules I’ve Googled quite a few times, just to be sure to be sure. The most recent number rule I checked was writing dates. Seems the digits for day, month and year can be in almost any order. I couldn’t get a firm ruling on use of the rd, nd, or th. The rules you have stated are pretty clear though.

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